Physarum and Harlequin nymphs

Yesterday I noticed a scattering of tiny red bugs skittering around amongst dead and shriveled leaves on a piece of painted wood in our backyard. Irresistible to a woman with a macro lens.

After a bit of investigation I determined that they were newly hatched nymphal stage Harlequin bugs. Great for my camera but not so good for my tomatoes. Be that as it may I spent many happy moments attempting to capture good macro photos of them – not easy when they were disinclined to sit still. Here are a couple of the best along with an adult that seemed to be chaperoning them:

As I watched their antics, I noticed that many of the dead leaves scattered abot were delicately outlined with miniscule white dots. Several photos and some online research later, and I discovered that they were the fruiting bodies of a type of slime mold, probably physarum, possibly physarum alba. Sounds icky but the fragile structures resembled microscopic mushrooms.

I discovered a wonderful site online in the process, Marin_mushrooms, an Instagram site of an extraordinary photographer dedicated to creating magnificent stacked focus macro and super macro photos of these diminutive fungi and molds. I highly recommend a visit to her site at

In addition to being fragile, the Physarum I photographed with my more modest equipment and patience were quite short-lived: most had cracked open and started to wither by today.


All photographs taken by Sabrina Caldwell and licenced under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0. Photo editing limited to cropping only.


Penumbral ‘Beaver Moon’

Simply the full moon? I think not. Tonight the full moon was eclipsed by the Earth’s penumbral (outer) shadow. While the shadow is slight, it is enough to create a lovely antique patina over the surface and highlight the Moon’s features.

In Native American tradition this full moon is known as the ‘Beaver Moon’ because it is the last full moon before the winter arrives, and by this time beavers have completed their dams and settled in.


Penumbral moon 30 November Canberra, Australia 8:51pm
No manipulations made to photo other than cropping
Sabrina Caldwell CC-BY-NC-ND-SA

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Posted by on November 30, 2020 in Astronomy


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‘Only a hedge fire’

So interesting when your area of research is image and knowledge credibility and you find yourself questioning the credibility of reports in your own life.

On 24 May this year we and our neighbours called Tuross Head Fire and Rescue to help with a fire at a house a few doors down from us. Later I was amazed to see a post on the Tuross Head Facebook page saying “24/5/20 17:34 p384 called to assist Tuross Rural Fire service at a house fire. Turned out to be only a large hedge alight.” [1]

A hedge? That’s not what it looked like to us!

Firefighter sillhouetted against leaping flames

The following photos were posted: very tame, aren’t they?

The fire was actually from a garden waste and rubbish burnoff – too big and too near the house. The hedge might have caught alight as a result, but it was no small fire; flames were spreading and rising several meters into the air, licking at the edges of the house. It took three hoses to keep it from setting the house on fire long enough for Tuross Fire and Rescue to arrive and put it out. My husband was holding two of the hoses.

Here are a few more photos of the ‘hedge fire’:


All photographs (apart from Facebook post screen capture) taken by Sabrina Caldwell. CC-BY-NC-ND-SA
No alterations of the photos were done.



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Kim Jong-un fauxtographs

While I have no comment on the status or otherwise of Kim Jong-un’s health, I was interested in the photos in the media today purporting that Jong-un attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  As I trawled through the internet looking for the photos, I found several photos released by Yonhap News, North Korea of this event and Jong-un’s participation.

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All of the photos were released under the same caption: N.K. leader reemerges after 20-day absence and with varying blurbs; here’s one:  “North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) attends a ceremony to mark the completion of a phosphatic fertilizer factory in Sunchon, north of Pyongyang, on May 1, 2020, in this photo released the next day by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency. Kim made his first public appearance after a 20-day absence that sparked rumors about his health.

Because Jong-un’s health is a current public question, with media speculating that he is unwell, perhaps even quite ill or worse, I was interested.  Were these photos real evidence of Jong-un’s present robust good health?

At first glance they look pretty legit.  But there are many significant issues with this portfolio of photographs.

The first thing that got my attention was the riotous colour of the celebratory cheer by a crowd festooned with flags, streamers, balloons and bouquets of flowers, surrounded by military troops of green and brown.


By comparison, the photograph of the assembly in the high elevation photograph is a somber affair of unrelieved black clothing.


Detail of fertilizer factory crowd

Since this is a small part of the photograph it is hard to decide if any of the green and brown military are present, but where are the balloons?  the flowers? the streamers?

It didn’t seem to be a very sunny day, so I couldn’t depend on shadow evidence, so I looked for other clues. Or could I?  I visited [2]  for yesterday’s weather in Pyongyang.  Hmmm, sunny day and a bit warm, ranging between 23 and 27 degrees Celcius most of the day.  And the high elevation photo does illustrate long shadows stretching towards the upper right of the photo.  As I contemplated the perspectives I could see that shadows would be no help as the assemblage seems to be tucked behind a building to the lower left of the crowd.

Now where is that building in the other photos?  Well, no buildings can be seen in the ribbon-cutting photo, so that’s no help. And the background to the photo in which Jong-un is standing and smiling for the camera doesn’t help either. The only other photo that could tell us is the one in which Jong-un is seated during a speech at the dais.


Now hang on, that isn’t the building either.  In fact, where is the building from the high elevation photo at all? It isn’t there!  And what are those red reflections in the windows of this photo?  Oh, they are the reflections of the red streamers from the celebratory photo.  That means that this photo and the celebratory photo (or at least most of it barring the banner and artist’s rendering) were not taken at the factory where the ribbon is being cut.

So I looked a bit closer at the artistic rendition of the factory behind the seated officials including Jong-un in the celebratory photo (quite small but visible) and and the one in the ‘seated’ photo and ‘ribbon cutting photo’.  Turns out that while they are very similar, closer scrutiny shows they are not the same.




And interestingly, note the large trees in the background (circled) that are not in the high elevation photo (below) where they should be.



The ‘seated’ photo was uploaded again to Yonhap News while I was writing this post.  It was captioned: “People watch a news broadcast on a television at Seoul Railway Station in downtown Seoul on May 2, 2020. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appeared in public for the first time in 20 days, despite a wave of speculation that he might be gravely sick or even dead.”  Fake news for the masses.


And one more little thing to point out before I stop – Jong-un’s sister’s hair seems to have grown quite a bit in one day!

Conclusion – these photographs are montages of pieces of photos taken at 2 different events at a minimum.  As evidence of Jong-un’s public appearance on Friday 1 May 2020?  Fail.



[1] Yonhap News 2 May 2020. Accessed 2 May 2020

[2] Accessed 2 May 2020

All original photos downloaded from Yonhap News and used in accordance with Fair Use provisions of copyright law. All derivative photos are licensed CC:BY:NC.






Burnt landscapes

The summer of 2019-2020 will never be forgotten by those of us who lived through it.  It seemed as though the entire country was on fire.  Each day brought fresh challenges, some of which felt very real even for those of us who escaped being touched directly. Our home remains standing as it did before, with only a few ember scars to tell the tale.  The scars on our psyche from weeks of living in a smoke pall with raging fires nearby are less visible yet more permanent.


This photo captured the moment the smoke moved in on New Year’s Eve. The sunshine in the foreground was the last we saw for over a month.

There were a couple of moments where we were faced with making very difficult choices. There were days of remaining calm while nearby fires spread and merged. The weather – wind direction, traces of moisture, temperature – became vital.  The smoke turned the sky orange and the ash from the fires turned the waves dirty grey.


The birds were flying in skies dense with smoke…


Black swans


Sea eagle

… and the beach was covered in black char…

IMG_0938_small… which was strangely clean because any soluble ash had been absorbed into the ocean.  One could scrunch a handful of the detritus and let it drop without the slightest smudge being left on the skin.


Oddly clean ash and char piled up on the beach

But our community, we were told by the local Rural Fire Service, was incredibly defendable and they intended to defend us.  And they were right, and they did.  With Coila Lake to the North of us and Tuross Lake to the South and the ocean to the East, and the RFS patrolling night and day, we were safe.  The knowledge that if all else failed we could retreat to the beach was comforting.


Pathway to the beach and a reminder to reduce tyre pressure

Overhead giant water bombing helicopters roared just above the trees.


And fire trucks passed beneath our windows.


The Thursday after New Year’s was particularly bad.


Dark smoke so dense the midday summer sun can’t penetrate it

But despite it all we remained safe, and were much more fortunate than many in our area. And though countless millions of hectares of Australian bushland was burnt, the Australian native plants are resilient in the face of firestorms, just like the Australians who live here. In some places the bush is already starting to make a recovery.


Eucalypts regenerating on Clyde Mountain

Hopefully everyone’s spirits will start to regenerate too.

All photos in this post by Sabrina Caldwell.  No photo editing was done on any of the photos other than resizing for web use.  Photos can be used in accordance with Creative Commons Open Licence CC-BY-NC-ND.